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The #1 Worst Drink That Ages Your Brain Faster, Says Science

This popular beverage could be doing major damage to your cognitive function over time.

When it comes to aging, many people find themselves primarily concerned with the visible effects of getting older, from those first gray hairs to the fine lines and wrinkles that seem to get more abundant with every passing year. Unfortunately, there are more insidious effects of the aging process, especially when it comes to the health of your brain. However, it's not just the passage of time that can affect your cognitive fitness over time—what you eat and drink may be playing a major role in your brain aging, too.

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In fact, one popular drink could be aging your brain faster than you could have imagined: soda.

How soda ages your brain

soda
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A 2019 study published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia found that, among a group of over 4,000 adults over the age of 30 who participated in the Framingham Heart Study, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, was associated with significant signs of brain aging.

It wasn't just people downing six-packs of soda who saw pronounced effects from their sugary drink consumption, though. After reviewing the results of psychological tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) conducted on study participants, the study's researchers determined that those who drank just one sugar-sweetened beverage a day had significantly more pronounced indicators of brain aging than their counterparts who drank fewer sugary drinks or abstained altogether.

"Higher consumption of sugary beverages was associated with smaller total brain volume, poorer episodic memory, and smaller hippocampal volume," all of which are known precursors to Alzheimer's disease, the study's authors explained.

The study's authors found that drinking 1-2 sugary beverages a day was associated with 1.6 years of brain aging in terms of overall brain volume lost and 5.8 years of brain aging in terms of logical memory delayed recall as compared to individuals who drank no sugar-sweetened drinks. For those who drank more than two sugar-sweetened beverages each day, brain volume loss was equivalent to two years of brain aging and logical memory delayed recall was equivalent to 11.0 years of brain aging as compared to those who abstained from sugary beverages altogether.

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Even diet soda isn't good for your brain

However, it may not be sugar-sweetened soda alone that can have a major effect on your brain health. A 2017 study published in the journal Stroke found that "artificially sweetened soft drink consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke and dementia" among a group of 2,888 participants in the Framingham Heart Study.

So, if you want to stay healthy as you age, you may want to steer clear of soda in any form—your brain and your belly will thank you.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more about Sarah